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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

23o                               THE GAY GENIUS

Shentsung constantly spoke oŁ your rare genius, and wished to make
use of your talent, but unfortunately he passed away before he could
do so."

The reference to the deceased emperor brought all three of them to
tears. The Empress then granted Su permission to sit down, and giving
him a packet of tea, said to him: "You must serve the young Emperor
loyally, to make return for the kindness of his father." As Su bowed
himself out, the Empress took from the table a golden candle-stand
carved in the form of a lotus and presented it to him as a gift.

Very soon after Su Tungpo's assumption of office as secretary to the
Emperor, Szema Kuang died, on September i, 1086. The day happened
to coincide with the fasting ceremonies for the official installation of the
spirit tablet of Emperor Shentsung in the ancestral temple of the Sung
house. It was the custom for friends to pay their respects to the dead
while the coffin was lying in state, and during such an official call tbj:
friends were supposed to mourn aloud for a definite period. Owing to
the coincidence, however, when all the officials had to observe the fast,
they were not able to pay their respects to the dead premier. On
September 6 the spirit tablet was formally installed in its place in the
ancestral temple with all the pomp and circumstance and classical
orchestral music appropriate to the occasion. A general amnesty was
granted, and the court suspended its daily audience with the Emperor
for three days. All officialdom was gathered at the ceremony. Then an
amusing but pregnant incident occurred.

It happened that Szema Kuang's funeral ceremony was in the charge-
of an ultra-puritanical neo-Confucianist, Cheng Yi, the younger of tip
two famous Cheng brothers. This puritan was far from being an
amiable character, to say the least, and his holier-than-thou manners
irritated Su Tungpo greatly. He was running the funeral ceremony
according to "ancient rites"* Although it had been for centuries a pre-
vailing custom for some relative of the deceased to stand by the coffin
and bow in turn to the guests, Cheng Yi insisted that this custom was
not classical and therefore forbade Szema Kuang's son from standing
beside the coffin to receive the guests. The idda was that the bereaved
son should be, if he were truly "filial", so overwhelmed with grief that
he was not in a condition to see people. When the ceremony at the
imperial ancestral temple was over, Su Tungpo, at the head of the staffs
of the imperial secretariat and the premier's office, was about to lead
the entire court over to Szema Kuang's home to pay their respects.
Cheng Yi, who was going there anyway, protested that this was against
the rule set by the austere example of Confucius. There is a passage in
the' Confucian Analects recording the fact that "on the day when he
had wept, Confucius did not sing." They had been singing that morn-
ing, or at least had been listening to orchestral music. How could they